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THE GOLDEN AGE OF LIGHT MUSIC - An Introduction
Gateway To The West (FARNON) – Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Robert Farnon
Going For A Ride (TORCH) – Sidney Torch And His Orchestra
With A Song In My Heart (RODGERS, HART) – André Kostelanetz & His Orchestra
Heykens’ Serenade (HEYKENS, arr. GOODWIN) – Ron Goodwin & His Orchestra
Martinique (WARREN) – Ray Martin & His Orchestra
Skyscraper Fantasy (PHILLIPS) – Charles Williams & His Concert Orchestra
Dance Of The Spanish Onion (ROSE) – David Rose & His Orchestra
Out Of This World – theme from the film (ARLEN, MERCER) – Mantovani & His Orchestra
Paris To Piccadilly (BUSBY, HURRAN) – L’Orchestre Devereaux/Georges Devereaux
Festive Days (ANCLIFFE) – London Promenade Orchestra/ Walter Collins
Ha’penny Breeze – theme from the film (GREEN) Philip Green & His Orchestra
Tropical (GOULD) – Morton Gould & His Orchestra
Puffin’ Billy (WHITE) – Danish State Radio Orchestra/Hubert Clifford
First Rhapsody (MELACHRINO) – Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
Fantasie Impromptu in C Sharp Minor (CHOPIN, arr. FARNON) Kingsway SO/Camarata
London Bridge March (COATES) – New Light Symphony Orchestra/Joseph Lewis
Mock Turtles (MORLEY) – Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Robert Farnon
To A Wild Rose (MACDOWELL, arr. Peter YORKE) – Peter Yorke & His Concert Orchestra
Plink, Plank, Plunk! (ANDERSON) – Leroy Anderson & His ‘Pops’ Concert Orchestra
Jamaican Rhumba (BENJAMIN, arr. Percy FAITH) – Percy Faith & His Orchestra
Vision in Velvet (DUNCAN) – New Concert Orchestra/Jack Leon
Grand Canyon (VAN DER LINDEN) – Dolf Van Der Linden & His Metropole Orchestra
Dancing Princess (HART, LAYMAN, arr. YOUNG) – Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra
Dainty Lady (PETER) – Reginald King & His Light Orchestra
Bandstand (‘Frescoes’ Suite) (HAYDN WOOD) – New Concert Orchestra/Serge Krish
Recorded 1933-1953
GUILD GLCD 5101 [78.23]


Guild is embarking on a Light Music series and the first volume is a broad brushstroke introduction to the genre. It’s chock-full of some of the biggest and best names in the field, from Haydn Wood and Eric Coates, whose 1930s charts are here, through to Robert Farnon, happily (and productively) still with us. The bulk of composers are Anglo-American-Canadian, though we have a fine example of Dutchman Dolf van der Linden’s work and there’s Paris to Piccadilly by Georges Devereaux, a musical entente cordiale. Sidestepping the ever-thorny issue of what is, or is not, Light Music I think we can just delve in to the well-transferred examples here without too much critical soul-searching. Whether derived from soundtrack, popular song, film scores or arrangements from light classics (as in the MacDowell or the Arthur Benjamin) one thing’s for sure; underrate the instrumentalists in these bands at your peril. They employed some of the best players of the day as a check of the two wind soloists in Farnon’s arrangement of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu will reveal – none other than Reginald Kell and Arthur Gleghorn, who were members of the grandly named Kingsway Symphony Orchestra.

So, splendid instrumentalists freelancing for arrangers of proven talent, working for leaders at the top of their profession – often the arrangers and the bandleaders were one and the same of course but not necessarily. We can glimpse the idiomatic litheness of Sidney Torch’s Going for a Ride – with top-notch string playing from one of the leading luminary bands in the field. Ron Goodwin, known and admired for his film scores, arranges the evergreen Heykens’ Serenade with panache and sprightly rhythm whilst the croaking exotica of the sound effects for Martinique are enough to have anyone reaching for the nearest waist to twist. English-born David Rose, for long an outstanding arranger in America, contributes a superb Dance of the Spanish Onion with its tight brass solo and sense of vitality and optimism. The Devereaux band gives us touches of Gershwin in its Anglo-French evocation as well as car horns and twinkle-twinkle little star quotations. Meanwhile Festive Days ditches the frivolity for a touch of the English Spa band style and Puffin’ Billy makes its expected appearance courtesy of Hubert Clifford conducting, of all things, the Danish State Radio Orchestra. Yes, we have the Melachrino Sound – effulgent, romantic with good solid brass and fine rhythm. One of the pieces I enjoyed the most was the arrangement of Dancing Princess in this slashing performance from Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra. It’s good to see names now forgotten; conductors such as Serge Krish, Joseph Lewis and Hubert Clifford – men who led symphonic orchestras in the freelance London world, or in places like Bournemouth, and who are now regrettably more footnote than memory. Good to meet them here.

A warm welcome then to the vitality and melodic warmth of these generous performances. The craft behind them makes them sound simple – but then that’s one of the arranger’s great arts, the seeming inevitability of certain voicings and melody lines. Few did it better than the men enshrined herein.

Jonathan Woolf

The Golden Age of Light Music - 1940s

The Golden Age of Light Music - 1950s

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